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US Government Prioritizing Palestinian Hamas as Target for Sanctions, Yellen Says

Earlier, House Democrats had rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers to weigh legislation that would effectively apply sanctions against Hamas after tensions escalated between the militant group and Israeli officials in May.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen declared on Thursday that the Biden administration would be prioritizing the Palestinian Hamas group as a target for looming sanctions.

Yellen's remarks were made during a hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee and comes amid a push by the administration to combat terrorism financing and money laundering abroad.

"Hamas has been designated as a target of the US government for counterterrorism sanction programs and we prioritize targeting Hamas and their supporters," Yellen told congressional lawmakers. "We have targeted a large number of Hamas-affiliated individuals and entities around the globe and that includes a host of charities around the world that have served as critical fundraising mechanisms."

"We also work closely with jurisdictions that are vulnerable to Hamas. We work with them to improve their anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism frameworks," the official added.

© AFP 2021 / AHMAD GHARABLIIsraeli security forces walk past extinguished burnt vehicles in Holon near Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021, after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement

The commentary comes just a few weeks after Democrats within the US House of Representatives blocked a GOP effort that would have raised the possibility of implementing sanctions against the Hamas group during the May rocket exchanges.

The bill, dubbed the International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, had been reintroduced into the chamber by Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and would have enacted sanctions against any foreign entities that fund Hamas. The measure had initially been introduced in 2019 and unanimously passed, however, it was not taken up for a vote in the US Senate.

Over the last several weeks, the Biden administration has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers over its response to the latest escalation in tensions between Israeli and Hamas officials, including from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), among other prominent Democrats.

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